My new favorite kitchen tool

May 6
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Fun fact: although I love coffee I’ve never owned a automatic drip coffee maker. I used a Keurig for several years and also have used a french press and pour over methods sporadically.

Anyways, I loved my Keurig but I always feel like its expensive and wasteful. I felt like I had to shop around to get the best deals on the k-cups because they are so expensive and I hated throwing the plastic away.

So I stated experimenting with the french press and pour over and and I although the pour over was fun, I didn’t enjoy the time consuming aspect of standing there pouring the water over the coffee. Also, I tended to pout too much water and make a mess. Anyways, I ended up loving the french press but I tried several and none of them were amazing. I wanted to purchase an item that was a “buy it for life” type thing so that I don’t have to go buy another one or worry about it breaking.

 

So, fast forward a few years and at least three presses and I finally got fed up and started researching what the best press would be. From what I read it seemed that the best way to go was a stainless steel press. At first I was against the idea of a the stainless because I wanted to be able to see the contents of the pot, but after more research and breaking ANOTHER glass press I gave in. (Yes, I broke another one while deliberating over my purchase.)

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So, I went to amazon and found this moderately priced press.  Now the $35 price tag totally scared me away at first, especially when I usually went for the $10 models. BUT LET ME TELL YOU. This thing is totally worth the money. The quality level of all the parts are 110%. The filter is a perfect tight fit and the press comes and an extra on just in case you need to replace yours. The cheaper presses I’ve owned all had filters that were subpar and did not fit as tight in the pot.

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I had been using the smaller single serve french presses but I went ahead and ordered the larger one for my “buy it for life” item. This worked out well as I was expecting several overnight guests so I wanted  something versatile for larger groups. This press makes four servings of coffee if you don’t use huge mugs. Perfect for my guests!  Anyways, I can still do a smaller batch in the press for just a 20oz mug but I also regularly make a full batch so that I can use the extra to make ice cubes or just stick it in the fridge for iced coffee the next day.

 

Anyways, I haven’t tried every french press on the planet but I have been using this one for a few months and I am pretty sure its a solid win.

 

 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase an item via a link from the page I will receive a small commission. This does not affect the price you pay for the item. In fact, I research the best prices for my site. All printables are free. Enjoy!

Bullet journal paper

May 2
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So if you have been following along you might be aware that I have been experimenting with bullet journaling in my mini happy planner.  Well, I am going to be honest, it has not been going great, but that is my fault.

Anyways, I have been looking to buy some dot paper like you find in bullet journals but it turns out it is a little hard to find and cost prohibitive. I see people selling it precut for the Happy Planner online but it was too expensive for what it was and I knew there had to be a better way. So I of course turned to google and typed in one simple search and came across THE BEST website. Basically the you can just plug in what you want and the page generates a PDF of the dot page for you.

 

I suggest using a slightly heavier paper such as this HP presentation paper so that your ink does not bleed though.  Also, don’t forget to print on BOTH sides of the paper!

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These are the settings that I found to work for me. Print it out and then cut down to the correct size for your planner.

Make your paper here!

Classic Happy Planner: 9.25” x 7”
Mini Happy Planner:   7” x 4.63”
Big Happy Planner: 8.5” x 11”
A5 planner: 8.5” x 5.5”
Personal/A6 planner: 3.7″ x 6.7″
Now grab your punch and you’re good to go!

Looking for more printables? Be sure to check my printable library!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase an item via a link from the page I will receive a small commission. This does not affect the price you pay for the item. In fact, I research the best prices for my site. All printables are free. Enjoy

Beauty and the Beast Bell Jars

April 28
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Last week at work I had the opportunity to host an event for our volunteers. With the recent release of the new live action Beauty and the Beast movie I had the idea to tie the event to that theme. I mean Bell loves books, right? So of course I wanted to recreate the iconic rose for the centerpeoces. 

After some searching around this is what I came up with. It’s super simple inexpensive which is great if you need several like I did. Read on to see how I made them. 


Supplies:
2 liter soda bottles
1.5 in foam balls 
Black paint 
Black felt 
Roses
X-acto knife
Scissors
Goo Gone

Several hours before you need your completed project paint the styrofoam balls with the acrylic paint. You can use whatever paint you like except for spray paint as it ruins foam. I used the cheap little bottles of acrylic paint from the craft store.

Remove the label from the 2 liter bottle. I cut it off then used goo gone to remove the label. TIP:  If you are just buying the 2 liter for this project select one with a clear label as opposed to a colored one as they seem to leave less adhesive. Next saturate the adhesive reside with goo gone and let sit for a minute. After that use a coin or your nails to remove the goo. Wipe down the bottle to remove residual product.

Next grab an x-acto knife and puncture the bottle near the bottom.  You can then use the knife or good scissors to cut the bottom of the bottle off. I found that many bottles had a little seam there which made cutting easy. After you’ve removed the bottom set the bottle on a table to ensure it is fairly even. Remember that we are using felt on the bottom so if there is a small jagged part it is going to be alright.

Now that the jar is nice and cut it is time to make the lid. Remove the cap from the bottle and the plastic ring. I found that it was easy to use scissors to pry the plastic ring off.

Now you will want to cut your styrofoam balls. I cut mine about 1/3 of the way in. I then gouged out the insides so that it would fit on the top. I used an x-acto knife to do this, just be careful! Next carefully push the ball onto the top of the bottle. If you push too hard it could break.At this point I grabbed some windex and cleaned the inside and the outside of the bottle, removing any remaining fingerprints or debris.

Now it is time to grab your flower. Cut your flower so that it fit in the bottle with the bottom resting on the table and the flower appearing near the top of the bottle. If your flower has movable leaves feel free to move them around to your liking. The fuller the jar looks the better.

It is now time to grab the felt and cut a circle that is about 1-2 inches wider in diameter than your bottle and place the circle under the bottle.

You’re done!


I used these as centerpieces. The tables were decorated with red and dark blue tablecloths with book pages spread like a table runner for accent. Rose petals would look lovely as well.

What do you think? Share below! 
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase an item via a link from the page I will receive a small commission. This does not affect the price you pay for the item. In fact, I research the best prices for my site. All printables are free. Enjoy!

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Happy Planner dimensions

April 18
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One of the most common things I see searched for in regards to the Happy Planner is the dimensions of the boxes. Several people have posted online and shared about one size planner or another, but I wanted to go ahead and share the dimensions of all three sizes of the Happy Planner for both the weekly and  monthly spreads.  Now it is all in one happy little place.

 

I measured my planners and because I am lazy sometimes, I just wrote the dimensions on them. Feel free to print, save, or use my images but please credit me if you share them anywhere.

Mini:

Daily boxes are 3.8″ wide and 1.5″ tall.

The pages are 7’x4.55″

 

Happy Planner Mini Monthly

The monthly boxes in the mini are 1″ wide and 1.25″ tall.

 

Classic:

Happy Planner Classic Weekly

 

Boxes in the weekly view of the classic planner are 1.5″ by 2.5″

Happy Planner Classic Monthly

Boxes on the monthly spread are 1.58″ x 1.58″

 

Big:

Big Happy Planner Daily View

Boxes on the weekly spread are 3.25″x1.9″

Big Happy PlanerMonthly View (2)

Boxes on the big monthly spread are 1.88″x 1.88″

I hope this information helps, I know the images are not the best, and I will hopefully be replacing them soon, but it is a starting pint.

 

Need a punch? I have this one and love it!
The new Happy Planners are out! Grab one here!.
Looking for sticker paper? I buy this one from Amazon.
I cut my stickers with a Silhouette Cameo electric cutting machine.
On a budget? Try the Gyro-cut to cut your stickers.
Looking for more? Check out my archive of free printables.

Big, classic, and mini happy planner page dimensions

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase an item via a link from the page I will receive a small commission. This does not affect the price you pay for the item. In fact, I research the best prices for my site. All printables are free. Enjoy!

 

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Six simple things to do Sunday for a successful week

April 6
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The last few months I have started getting into a great Sunday habit that I feel has really led to better weeks. I am calling it one habit, but my Sunday habit really is a set of six goals that I try to have met each Sunday before I go to bed. Sundays are generally my day off to myself as my husband works them so it is a great time to me to knock out some important errands. Depending on your schedule, you may have another day you do these tasks. Do it when it is best for you. For most of us Sunday is the day before the start of our workweek.

Meal Plan

One of the first things I do Sundays is meal plan. For me, meal planning is picking out dinners for the week as well as ensuring my husband and I have leftovers or other meals for lunches. I like to be realistic so I plan easy meals for busy nights and more elaborate dinners for nights when I am off or actually have time. I also take my husband’s schedule into account so if I know he is working late Thursday night I may make that a leftovers night instead of trying to cook a full meal just for myself. You know you and your family. Make a plan that works for you, but also be flexible with it. Want to grab tacos on Tuesday? Go for it, just make Tuesday’s meal on Wednesday! 

Shopping

After I have my meals I put together my grocery list. I add items for meals as well as check the staples in the pantry and fridge. I also text my husband and get any ideas from him. This is a great time to check the bathrooms and storage as well to ensure you are stocked up on toiletries and paper products. My goal is to have everything for the week purchased so I don’t have to make extra trips to the store during the week. After the list is made I do my shopping and put away my purchases.

Clothing

Next I walk into my closet and plan my outfits for the week. When I tell people I plan my outfits they are usually a little shocked at first, but after I explain my process a little more they get it. Yes, I do plan my work outfits, but I am not super strict about it. I will hang them in an area of my closet in order Monday, Tuesday, ect, but I am very flexible on when I wear what. I also look at my planner to see if I have any important meetings I need to dress up for or any other plans that might affect my wardrobe choices. I also like to glance at the weather as well. This really makes getting ready in the dark in the morning easy. Just grab a set and go.

As I mentioned, these outfits are hung in order in the front of my closet. If camisoles are needed I grab them and put them on the hangers. Going through my drawers looking for the hot pink camisole at 6:30 am is not fun.

Generally my laundry is already done by this point, but if there is an item I need for the week now is the time I’d toss it in the wash and do a load.

Lunches

Back to food again. I know it sounds silly, but having all the meals thought out really does set me up for a better week. I like to pick up my snacks for the week at this time. Granola bars, fruit, and hard-boiled eggs are my current favorites. Usually I eat a small snack in the afternoon at work to tie me over until dinner.  Now is the time I cook any rice, quinoa, or beans my husband or I need for lunches.

The Car

One my last to dos is to check my car. I clean out anything left from the week before and ensure it is gassed up for the next week. Getting gas Monday morning is just not fun.

Straightening

The last thing I do is more of just a generally habit. I like to take a few minutes in the afternoon and just pick up anything around the house or the kitchen. It is great to go into the workweek with a clean house; it really helps me mentally prepare for the week.

I like to have all this done by dinnertime so I can make dinner and enjoy the evening before the workweek. Keep in mind, this system works well for me but please optimize it for your own use. Maybe you don’t pack a lunch or you wear a uniform. Skip those steps and feel free to add anything else you need. Also don’t feel like you need to spend an entire day getting ready for the week. You of course do need to grocery shop every once in a while, but the rest of this is easy stuff that does not take a lot of time. Enjoy your day and plan to have a great week!

 

Six Simple Things

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What I read- March 2017

April 3
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It is that time again; time to share what I read last month. I made my way through several books last month, and honestly I was really happy with most of them. Read through to see what I liked and what I didn’t.


The Handmaid’s Tale- Margret Atwood

With the upcoming Hulu mini series I wanted to make sure I had this book finished before the show came out. I was able to read the book for free on Kindle Unlimited which was a great deal! (Follow the link for a free one month trial.)  I am big fan of utopian/dystopian fiction so I was surprised that I hadn’t read this book already. The story is not for the faint of heart, and deals with some ugly topics but is a great book to remind us to look at our world and be aware of how the small choices we make as a people could multiply and become a serious issue.


The Last Days of Night- Graham Moore

This great piece of historical fiction is about the battle to rule the electric light bulb between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse. The book explains how Nikola Tesla was involved in all of this and is a great introduction to these men. I listened to this on audiobook and felt the narrator did a great job with Tesla’s accent.  If you enjoy history and the turn of the century this is a must read (or listen.)


The Moor’s Account- Laila Lalami

Some friends and I started a new book club recently and this was the title selected. Before it was chosen I had not heard anything of this book, but when I found out it was about Narvaez expedition I was excited. The Moor is a black slave that was one of the few survivors of the fateful expedition and the book is his tale of what happened as well as the story of how he became a slave. Sadly, I did not love this book. It was alright and worth reading, however it really dragged on for me. You may love it, but again, it just wasn’t for me, I was bored.


The Animators- Kayla Rae Whitaker

Truth: I picked up this book because the cover looked cool. I figured it would be about life in California working for Disney, or something like that.  That is 100% not what this book is about, but I think it might be better than that. The female duo are indie film creators and the book is a look into their lives, the tragedies they face, and how the are overcome. I loved the real grittiness of this book. The characters are real and the book deals with real life issues. Also, they are so cool it makes me a little jealous.


Big Little Lies- Liane Moriarty

I am going to guess that you have heard of the new HBO series Big Little Lies and that is it based of this book. In case you hadn’t, well, now you know. I have read a few or Moriarty’s books and so far this one has been the most intense for me. I love how real this book, as well as her others feel. They deal with real issues, real families, and tragedies that do happen. I am not going to go into detail as I don’t want to ruin anything, but this book is great.  Like her other books I have read, this title takes place in Australia which is always fun.


The Trespasser- Tana French

I am new to French’s books and so far I enjoy them. This a a cop mystery that takes place in Dublin which gives it some fun vocabulary as well as accents to play with. Although a procedural cop mystery, I enjoyed the tale and how it was shared. The title wasn’t super deep or emotionally riveting, but it was a great story and worth my time to read and escape. I will be adding her to my list of vacation reading authors or for when I need a change or pace.

 

So that concludes what I read for this month. If you’ve been following along you may have noticed that I did not meet my goals of non-fiction and classics this month. Oh well, I have plenty of time to catch up, and I am already ahead in non-fiction.

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As far as the Goodreads challenge is going, I am ahead which is great. Feel free to follow my on Goodreads to keep up with what I am reading and have read.

 

Well that is all for this month. What have you read lately?
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase an item via a link from the page I will receive a small commission. This does not affect the price you pay for the item. In fact, I research the best prices for my site. All printables are free. Enjoy!

Starting a Bullet Journal in a Mini Happy Planner

March 18
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I have been putting off getting a bullet journal for some time now. I keep thinking about it, but always stop when I realize how much setup is involved. I LOVE lists and the idea that all your lists and info can be kept together, but I always just kind of stop when I start to think about filling out the monthly calendars. It is just a little too tedious for me.  After seeing the mini happy planners that came out last year I started to toy with the idea of using bullet journal style planning in one of these smaller, more compact planners.  Fast forward to today and I have finally done it. I have taken what I feel is the best of both worlds and created a frankenbullet journal that is perfect for me.

 

My problems with traditional bullet journals:

Generally, bullet journals are done in moleskin notebooks or similar bound books. The means there is a limited number of pages and no option to move things around. With the Happy Planner I can take out and add pages at will which means mistakes are not the end of the world. Believe me, I need this; I make too many mistakes.

My second major issue with bullet journals, as I mentioned above, is that I don’t want to write out the entire calendar.  By this I am not really talking about the calendar grid, but the numbers for the dates. Mess one up and the entire month is ruined. You’ve got to cross out and rewrite it all. Or, even worse, you may not realize your error and end up missing an important meeting or appointment.  Great. By using the premade Happy Planner monthly DATED planner this removes this issue. Yay! (Make sure you buy a dated version, please.)

 

For this project I purchased:
Mini Dated Happy Planner
Extra paper
Folder dividers
I also used my Happy Planner punch. Don’t have a punch yet? Get one, they are a great investment for Happy Planner users. You can put ANY paper into your planner. It is amazing.

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These are the folders in the pack.

As far as paper is concerned I took the easy way out and purchased the Happy Planner paper, however most traditional bullet journals used dotted paper. If you’d like dotted paper you can purchase these premade  dotted pages  or make your own and use the punch it to put it in.

 

Anyways, so this is what I threw together as my journal/planner. Check back next week to see more about how I am using this planner as well as some printables for it.

 

Enjoy!

 

Looking for more? Check out my instagram account for planner photos and everything else.

How to start a bullet journal (Bujo) in a MINI Happy Planner by MAMBI.

DIY Painted Kitchen Cart

March 8
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A few months ago my husband ran across this cute little kitchen cart at a yard sale. He knew that I was looking for something like this for a corner of our kitchen/dining room area and so he grabbed it for me. I loved the little cart, but I felt that it was a little lackluster and didn’t go with the room so I decided to fix it up a bit.  I recently got a new teal rug for the dining room so I decided to paint the base teal and use an antiquing wax to give it an interesting look. Our kitchen cabinets are a red oak so I purchased a stain for the top of the cart that matched this color.

Materials:
Minwax stain
Chalk paint
Antiquing wax 
Paint brush (These are supposed to be great)
Polyacrylic
Painter’s tape
Fine sandpaper
Electric sander (Optional, but totally worth the $30 investment if you’re going to be doing a lot of projects)

I purchased my paint and wax from Michaels however for simplicity I have linked to products at Amazon.

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The top of the cart is a butcher block and was a little worn so I went ahead and sanded the top down a little bit.  I used a fine grit sand paper. After sanding I wiped down the piece thoroughly so that it was nice and clean and then followed up with a dry cloth.

I chose to start with the stain as I knew I’d be doing several layers. The stain I used stays on for 15 minutes and then is removed with a cloth. Read the instructions on your can in case it is different. Use painter’s tape (or washi tape in a pinch) to keep the stain off unwanted surfaces.

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After staining I started painting the body of the cart. Originally I wanted the exterior of the drawer to be stained to match, however because the wood was different from the top of the piece the stain did not sink in well so I painted over it. I did two coats of paint and then did some touch up in a few places to make sure it was good.

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I chose to use an antiquing wax on this piece to give it a distressed finish. It also muted the color a bit which fit my room better. I found this YouTube video on how to use the wax very helpful.  Remember to read the instructions on your wax, with mine I went back the day after and buffed the piece to finish it.

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The last step was to apply a clear coat of Polyacrylic to the top. This is a clear water based sealant that will protect the surface. You may want to do two or three coats of this.

Overall this was a great project and a great deal. We spent way less on this piece and the supplies as we would a nicely painted new version of this product and we got it in the color we wanted which looks great in the dining room area.

DIY Calk painted kitchen cart. This piece was stained and waxed with an antiquing wax.

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Cacao Green Smoothies

March 7
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I know I am late to the party, but I have recently been introduced to cacao and I love it! I have been using it in my green smoothies to create what are basically healthy chocolate milkshakes.

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First of, for those that also live under a rock, here is a little more info on cacao and cacao powder. Basically cacao powder is from the cacao bean so it is chocolate, but not as processed as cocoa powder. Is is high in antioxidants and magnesium which makes it a great food for women to consume. The best part? It contains only 20 calories per tablespoon!

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It took me a few tries to get my smoothie recipe down, but I have been very happy with the recipe I have come up with. In fact, it is almost addicting, so much that sometimes I want one after I get home from work instead of dinner. While I don’t suggest you eat these three times a day, the recipe I am sharing is a great breakfast substitute as it contains fiber, protein, and good fats. It will keep you full until lunch and is delicious.

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Print Recipe
Cacao Green Smoothies
This is a simple recipe to make delicious healthy cacao smoothies that taste like milkshakes. Careful, they are totally addictive.
Prep Time 3 minutes
Servings
person
Ingredients
Prep Time 3 minutes
Servings
person
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Add spinach and kale to your blender. If using a personal sized smoothie cup add water to compact the greens and then add other ingredients. Add lid and blend until smooth. Add more water if the smoothie is too thick.
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easy cacao green smoothie with spinach and kale. Healthy cacao smoothie.

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What I read- February 2017

March 5
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This was a pretty productive month reading wise. As usual, most of these titles were read via audiobook at home and during my commute. If you haven’t tried audiobooks before I strongly consider giving them a change. I was against the idea at first, but have learned to love them. I get my audiobooks from library’s downloadable books service and Audible. (Click the link for a free 30 day trial.)

Why do we get Fat? by Gary Taubes
You will see the theme for much of my reading this month is health related. This title gives an interesting spin on the million dollar question of why we get fat. I am personally not looking to lose weight, however I do know that there is a weight problem in the US and I know that I may not be invincible forever. I’d like to start making the right steps today to lead me and my husband down the right path for the rest of our lives. The main point of this book is that carbohydrates really are the problem, (which I agree with) but he went on to explain why they make us fat and how they trigger our brains. I still want to do some more research on what the author says and will follow up later after my research is finished.


Smart Fat: Eat More Fat. Lose More Weight. Get Healthy Now by Steven Masley
Another health book, big surprise. This author has a great focus on how good fats, protein, and fiber really are the main food groups we need to worry about. This goes hand in hand with what Taubes said in the previous title and also agrees with the idea that we should avoid carbs. The book includes a great list of foods that qualify for the three groups and how much of each we need to eat.


Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

As you may recall from my 2017 reading goals post, I am reading one “classic” a month. For February I chose this title. The story is about a boy living in a small town during the summer of 1928. The book  shares his adventures, revelations, and life in a small town. Although I didn’t love it, this is one of his most well known titles and a great book to have read and be familiar with.


Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

This was a fun read for the month. This is a great modern tale about a well off wife and mother living in Seattle and where life takes her. I am not going to reveal much more in case you want to read it, but it really was a fun read.  The writing reminds me of Liane Moriarty but maybe a little less emotional but still full of drama. This was a great enjoyable read to break up the non-fiction this month and would be a great beach read.


Hidden Figures by Margot Shetterly

I haven’t had a change to watch the movie yet, but I wanted to jump in and read the book ahead of time. While I enjoyed the book, I am fairly sure the movie will actually be better. (Blasphemy, I know.)  Although the book does focus on some of the more emotional aspects of the ordeals the women went though, I am fairly sure the actresses will have done a better job.  The movie comes out on DVD in April so I will have to rent it then and confirm my suspicions.  If you’ve seen the movie and want more background information I think the book will be helpful as there are always more details in the book.


Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout by Laura Jane Grace

I have been a big Against Me! fan since my teens and have been casually following Tom Gable’s male to female transition in the media and was super excited with I heard about his book coming out. I went into this book mostly wanting to read a history of the band and if that is what you’re looking for, that is not 100% what you will find. This book is about Tom/Laura and their life before, during, and after the transition. Yes, the book covers many of the albums, touring, and band life, but it is not about the music, it is about the person. This was a great look into Laura’s head, but it did leave me feeling like the band was only for the buck, not the music.  If you read it, let me know what you think.

The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes
My last book for the month is another by Taubes. This is his newest book and is again very eye opening. If you, like many of us, are starting to realize that we are consuming way too much sugar then this book deserves a read. Taubes shares how much sugar was commonly consumed 50, 100, and 200 years ago and compares those levels to today. We all know there is too much sugar going around, but it is not until you look at the numbers that it really makes sense. He also compares the American diet to that of other countries who do and do not consume sugar like we do. Much of the book is spent explaining the rise of diabetes and how sugar affects it. As someone who has a history of diabetes in my family, I found this information very useful and would like to start limiting my sugar intake to hopefully prevent future illness.

 

So those are my seven books for the month. Click below to see my goodreads account and see what I’m currently reading and my to-read list. Screen Shot 2017-03-02 at 9.56.09 PM

 

Did you read anything great lately? Share it in the comments or tag me on Twitter or instagram.com/_amberdowns. I’m @_amberdowns on both!